Just one week after BMW displayed a carbon swingarm, it has revealed a 3D-printed aluminium chassis and swingarm for the S1000RR. BMW says the chassis is a result of digitalised manufacturing, which allows it to custom build highly-complex objects. It also gives the firm the ability to rapid prototype new components, with its new research centre producing over 140,000 prototype parts per year.
The bike industry has been using 3D printing to make prototype parts for years. It isn’t a new technology as such – aerospace firms were using it in the 1980s. 3D printing divides an object up into tiny slithers which then build up a printout, layer by layer, based on a design drawing.
Motorcycle firms were actually late adopters. Bike companies started using 3D printing to make prototype parts out of plastics so stylists and designers could see the reality of their CAD models, but later technology has meant that metal parts can be made too. So far most have been non-load-bearing but the fact that BMW has made a frame and swingarm proves that this is changing.
BMW has revealed very little about the frame but it appears to be made using ‘metal powder laser melting’, a process where a laser draws a shape across metal powders with enough power to weld the metal together leaving a solid object once the rest of the powder is blown away. BMW uses this technology in cars to produce light objects that would otherwise be too expensive or complex to create.
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